Wise men say the only constant in the universe is change. It happens all around us: the moon moves through its cycles, the seasons inevitably flow into each other, our bodies grow and widen, lovers leave, people die. Despite this constancy our relationship with change is fickle at best. We engage forever, and often without notice, in a love/hate relationship with it. On one hand we seek to maintain the status quo while on the other insisting that our bodies, circumstances and loved ones morph and conform to our ideal picture of life. We fear change for its unpredictability and we love it for its promise of better times and more happiness. If only other people and the Universe could get their timing together, we know everything would be perfect.
As souls in this human experience we spend a lot of time getting comfortable, dreaming of ways to be more comfortable and striving to maintain the comfort we have attained. We like to feel good with a minimum amount of effort. We are so preoccupied with this that we don’t notice it’s killing us. It keeps us bound to bad relationships and miserable jobs, makes us behave as if we are apathetic to our politics, we consume nutrition-less food loaded with contrived ingredients that make us sick, and we’ve earned the fine distinction of being the world’s number one consumer of anti-depressants and pain killers. All this because we want to keep a firm hold on the things we tell ourselves work. When forces beyond our control assert their dominance we become petulant, whining assholes, lamenting, “why me”, “how dare they”, all the while refusing to accept that there is anything – anything – remotely good about this god forsaken mess. In our hissy fit, we miss the inherent opportunity change brings. In our assertion that we know best, we miss the chance to know Grace.
I know because I spent years doing it – all of it.
Here is what I’ve discovered about change: it’s scary, uncomfortable, inconvenient and a royal pain in the ass. It’s also: awesome, the harbinger of incredible opportunity, and necessary. Nothing grand ever happened in my life that didn’t first start with a change. Whether that change was a risk that called me out of my comfort zone, some horrible truth that couldn’t be denied, another person’s choice that rocked my world, or the death of something that I needed more than anything to last forever. It has all been a marvelous opportunity.
As I think of all this I am also thinking of the late Steve Jobs. In his commencement address to the 2005 graduates of Stanford University he said,
“…for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something…Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
You can’t fear change and accomplish what he accomplished. You can’t truly be happy running from it or trying to deny its inevitability. It is constant and loaded with possibility. The only ingredient needed to reveal the magic is your perception.
One of my favorite ideas is that we die to be reborn. Every instance of change is a small death, a glorious transformation. We can deny it, refuse it, bitch about it, and rail against it, but it won’t stop coming. Wouldn’t it be better to just trust it? Wouldn’t we be happier to embrace it as opportunity, choose to look at the world with fresh eyes, and step willingly and enthusiastically into the flow of Grace, our source? Isn’t it only in stepping out and truly meeting Life that we are able to genuinely and freely live it? Change is too exhausting to fight, and frankly, trying to does one no good. I hope next time you’re faced with a change, whether it’s one you don’t expect or one that doesn’t live up to your expectations, that you take a moment. Take a moment and a deep breath. Close your eyes and say, “I want to know what I can’t yet see.” The divine forces of the Universe already know what you want to become. Change, no matter how trivial or profound, makes you prepared; it forces your hand. Embracing it is not always easy, but I believe that it’s far less frightening and inconvenient than we expect. This reminds me of another great quote. This one from Laurie Gerber, “Happiness lives on the other side of fear.” Words to live by.